DOJ: Maria Butina traded sex for favors to infiltrate NRA, DC circles

April FrancisJul 19, 2018

The woman, Mariia Butina, was observed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation dining privately with a Russian diplomat suspected of being an intelligence operative in the weeks before the envoy's departure from the USA last March, prosecutors said.

She is suspected of gathering intelligence on USA officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin.

In the documents, the US Justice Department accuses Butina of contacting Russian intelligence operatives and claims a handwritten note about working with them was found in her apartment.

In July 2015, Butina was selected to ask Trump a question about his plans for ties with Russian Federation at a rally in Las Vegas.

Ms Butina's Facebook page includes numerous pictures of her and Mr Torshin, as well as photos of her attending other events where she met well-known American politicians, including Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Like Chapman, prosecutors say Butina used sex appeal to further her aims.

USA prosecutors allege that Butina sought to cultivate close ties with the NRA as a conduit to the Republican Party during the 2016 presidential election.

The gun rights organization is nearly certainly the National Rifle Association, whom Butina began reaching out to in 2013 and meeting with both in the USA and Russian Federation.

Moscow denies USA allegations it interfered in the election and Trump denies any campaign collusion.

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"Judging by the documents published on the website of the US Department of Justice, she is being charged with illegal activities as a foreign agent". Moscow has called her arrest politically motivated.

"While we respect the court, we strongly disagree that there were no conditions of release short of incarceration to detain an innocent student before trial", he said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday the arrest in the United States of a 29-year-old woman accused of being a Russian agent was carried out to spoil the positive impact of Monday's Russia-U.S. summit in Helsinki, the state-run RIA news agency reported. In 2015, a collection of NRA officials flew over to Russian Federation to attend Butina's annual gun conference, the Right to Bear Arms, details of which were included in a report from Democrats on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence made public on March 26. That individual appears to fit the profile of Alexander Torshin, a former senator and Russian central banker who was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department earlier this year. He also urged that the case should not be tried in the context of current US-Russian relations.

Butina's arrest Sunday added to the political turmoil in Washington over Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election and allegations that President Donald Trump's campaign collaborated with the Russians.

That official, who left the United States in March, was suspected of being a Russian intelligence officer, according to prosecutors.

Butina "appears to treat that relationship as simply a necessary aspect of her activities", said the memo in favor of pretrial detention.

The document says that when Butina lived with her older boyfriend, she allegedly offered to engage in a "honeypot" scheme, which is using sex to either trap, blackmail, or obtain intel from a target. He and the Russians sought to use the imprimatur of the NRA in order to arrange meetings between US political leaders and Trump, citing a "back channel" Erickson had forged with the Kremlin.

Driscoll repeatedly argued that Butina is not a flight risk and has cooperated with the government.

Butina's lawyers acknowledge that she has been intensively questioned by the Senate intelligence committee, but insist that she is just a student. He did not elaborate on the details.

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